The use of information technology (IT) in dentistry is far ranging. In order to produce a working document for the dental educator, this paper focuses on those methods where IT can assist in the education and competence development of dental students and dentists (e.g. e-learning, distance learning, simulations and computer-based assessment). Web pages and other information-gathering devices have become an essential part of our daily life, as they provide extensive information on all aspects of our society. This is mirrored in dental education where there are many different tools available, as listed in this report. IT offers added value to traditional teaching methods and examples are provided. In spite of the continuing debate on the learning effectiveness of e-learning applications, students request such approaches as an adjunct to the traditional delivery of learning materials. Faculty require support to enable them to effectively use the technology to the benefit of their students. This support should be provided by the institution and it is suggested that, where possible, institutions should appoint an e-learning champion with good interpersonal skills to support and encourage faculty change. From a global prospective, all students and faculty should have access to e-learning tools. This report encourages open access to e-learning material, platforms and programs. The quality of such learning materials must have well defined learning objectives and involve peer review to ensure content validity, accuracy, currency, the use of evidence-based data and the use of best practices. To ensure that the developers' intellectual rights are protected, the original content needs to be secure from unauthorized changes. Strategies and recommendations on how to improve the quality of e-learning are outlined. In the area of assessment, traditional examination schemes can be enriched by IT, whilst the Internet can provide many innovative approaches. Future trends in IT will evolve around improved uptake and access facilitated by the technology (hardware and software). The use of Web 2.0 shows considerable promise and this may have implications on a global level. For example, the one-laptop-per-child project is the best example of what Web 2.0 can do: minimal use of hardware to maximize use of the Internet structure. In essence, simple technology can overcome many of the barriers to learning. IT will always remain exciting, as it is always changing and the users, whether dental students, educators or patients are like chameleons adapting to the ever-changing landscape.
- Computer-assisted instruction
- Dental education
- Information technology